As a joke one Christmas, we gave my Dad, Bobby, a jump rope.
At the time, my dad was a bit of an oddity in the neighborhood. He was a grown man who really liked to jump rope, but back then, in 1972, jumping rope was “for girls.”
My dad didn’t care. He tied two of my pink plastic ropes together and jumped.
On any given day, people could drive by our house on a busy street in the heart of downtown Madison, Wisconsin, and see my 42-year-old father skipping rope with a huge grin on his face. He thought it was fun and that it kept him fit. He was right.
As a former boxer, my dad knew the fitness benefits of jumping rope. He knew that proper jumping involved a range of steps and skipping, benefits that those outside the boxing world simply didn’t know about — cross-jumping, double-leap skipping, backward skipping.
This was why my mom, Joy, thought a kids jump rope would be a fun gift for Dad. It was a nicer jump rope, and it wasn’t pink. Again, it was supposed to be a “joke.”
When my dad opened his Christmas present, he didn’t laugh. Instead, he looked at the one-page instruction sheet that came in the package and got very, very excited. At that moment, he realized there was an untapped market, one he decided he was going to fill: teaching folks the art of jumping rope.
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The entire day, while the rest of us played with our Pet Rocks, my dad sat in the corner and sketched out a 30-page booklet on the different steps and styles of jumping rope. Within a week, he quit his job, developed a beaded rope to go with the booklet, and started his unofficial reign as the Jump Rope King.
The booklet was the real selling point, but the fact that the ropes were different was a bonus. The Bobby Hinds’ ropes were colorful and had weighted plastic segments rather than the traditional braided rope (like the one he got for Christmas). These ropes offered much greater speed, flexibility, and control, as well as the additional bonus of adjustability for users of all heights.
We started making ropes in the backyard. Yep, for my first job ever, at 14, I made 50 cents a rope. We would set the beads down on these handmade wooden accordion-shaped platforms and string the rope through. Locally, the buzz started: Dad started selling his ropes at local fitness shops, farmers’ markets and just about anywhere. I remember one of his tricks was to tell folks that if they could jump for one minute, he would give them the rope.
Very few won the challenge. (Try it yourself!)
Becoming the Jump Rope King
If we thought our dad was a spectacle before, we were in for a surprise. That one simple idea inspired by our Christmas gift went national. CBS journalist Charles Kuralt somehow found my father and ran a full-length feature on his show, “On the Road with Charles Kuralt.” Time magazine followed with an article calling my father an “innovator,” and named him “The Jump Rope King.”
My dad went on to appear on “The Tonight Show,” “The Today Show,” Merv Griffin’s show and even on the cover of a Wheaties box.
For those who haven’t jumped in years, I’m not trying to sell a product. I’m simply saying that one simple jump rope can be an inspiring gift for anyone. With a jump rope and a smidgeon of room, it is completely conceivable to enjoy a festive holiday season and start the New Year being fit, not fat. Jumping ten minutes, three times a week, is all you need.
Studies have shown that jumping rope burns about 720 calories in an hour (based on about 120 to 140 turns per minute and varying with intensity, type of rope, height and weight). It provides improvement in strength, agility, coordination and endurance. Over the holidays, get everyone involved. Give everyone a rope and see who can jump the longest, or who can skip the slowest and fastest. Play like you used to at recess.
Today, unlike when we gave Dad his own first rope, there are choices available. There are the super fast and light Speed Ropes, the Beaded Power Jump Ropes (like my Dad’s old version), or even Weighted Heavy Ropes.
I may have been the daughter of the “Jumprope King,” but never did I feel I was a princess. We were expected, my brothers and sister and I, to work as kids: to help make the ropes, and when needed, package and distribute them.
But I did and do still feel privileged. Today I see how growing up with such a hard-working and imaginative but stern father bestowed gifts that still serve me today. I am not only a great jump roper, but I have a keen sense of the value of ideas and the importance of persistence.
My dad went on to build a fitness business that involved other products, but it all began with one Christmas morning and one jump rope. My heart still belongs to the original Bobby Hinds’ mission to Jump for Joy, and yes, the entire family still jumps. I am now 54 years old, and I still jump rope every other day. It’s kept the weight off, helped with other sports and has stayed fun. How many of us can say that?